Drivers traveling through Arizona's Pinal County between Phoenix and Tucson face traffic challenges beyond the norm. Giant clouds of dust that engulf drivers like a dirt tsunami make it practically impossible to see. This stretch of road has been the scene of several multicar pileups, some of them deadly.
Elsewhere in the U.S., winding, narrow highways, roads with tricky intersections and highways with heavy traffic make some routes more dangerous than others. Based on statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a Fox News report and interviews with cops, here are the 10 most dangerous roads in the U.S. They are listed in no particular order.
• Interstate 10 in Pinal County (Arizona). This stretch of road between Tucson and Phoenix claimed 118 lives between 2004 and 2009.
• U.S. Route 550 from Ouray to Silverton (Colorado). This highway made the list for its sharp S-curves and mountainous terrain.
• Interstate 95 (Florida). This interstate was the site of 765 deaths between 2004 and 2008, with 1.73 fatalities per mile -- the highest ratio in the country.
• U.S. Highway 101 to Interstate 405 interchange (Southern California). This heavily congested freeway is often called the "four or five" – the four or five miles per hour you can expect to drive at any given time. Drivers entering a congested area from a faster freeway often don’t have enough time to adjust their speed, says Jimmy Chavez, president of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association. "The more congested the roadway the more likely you are to need to take evasive action. If you don't have enough time to react, it could result in a catastrophic event (accident)."
• Interstate 285 at Interstate 85 interchange (Georgia). Multilevel highways and small offshoot roads create major traffic congestion. Suspended bridges and roads create icy conditions in winter months.
• U.S. Route 17 in Beaufort County (South Carolina). Blind curves, narrow lanes and sharp turns qualify this highway for the list.
• Interstate 15 in Los Angeles County (California). Between 2005 and 2009, nearly 350 deaths were reported on this straight, wide freeway. The road leads from Las Vegas, where drivers may let their guard down during the five-hour drive, Chavez says.
• Interstate 10 in Maricopa County (Arizona). This stretch of road goes from a heavily populated metropolitan area into a rural setting, which catches people off guard, Chavez says. The result: Drivers keep traveling at speeds that are too high, he says. Nearly 180 deaths have occurred on this stretch of highway within the past decade.
• Interstate 45 in Harris County (Texas). This major corridor through Houston is undergoing improvements to better handle traffic. Between 1994 and 2008, 320 people were killed in traffic mishaps on this portion of I-10.
• Interstate 76 in New Jersey. Second only to Interstate 95 in Florida for traffic deaths on a single road, this highway clocks in at 1.64 fatal accidents per mile.
Several factors make these roadways dangerous, says Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau and a former sheriff's deputy who investigated traffic accidents. "For one, early freeways were designed and built when there were millions of fewer vehicles on the road than there are today," he says.
Two other reasons: alcohol and speed. "Speeding and drinking and driving are two of the biggest factors in motor vehicle crashes," says Russ Rader, a spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Rader adds that rural two-lane roads pose hazards because of the potential for high-speed collisions and run-off-the-road crashes. In urban settings, red-light running is a bigger problem, he says.
Role of auto insurance
Getting into even a minor car crash on one of these dangerous roads and filing a claim can raise your auto insurance rates, says Keith Verisario, vice president of All-Security Insurance Agency Inc. in Illinois. The amount varies from driver to driver.
If it's your first auto accident and your insurance company pays a large claim -- at least $2,000, you'll likely see your premium go up by $100 to $300 a year, Verisario says. You could be stuck with that additional charge for three to five years, he says.